LaSportiva X Country v. Crossleather

Shoes, my unending obsession.  M and I have an ongoing debate over who is more discerning, her and her heels or me and my trail runners.  I obviously think the labor of 30+ mile days dwarfs bizarre fashion artifacts, however anatomically barbaric.

Top to bottom: brand new X Country, 7 week old Crossleather, 11 month old Crossleather.  All size 45.

I’ll always be searching for the perfect trail shoe.  Late model LaSportiva’s have worked well for me over the last three years.  The Fireblade was good, though the heel was a bit too wide and the traction wasn’t good in mud or loose stuff.  The Crosslite was awesome, but I got holes in the outer toebox inside 50 miles, and returned them to REI for the above pair of Crossleathers.  The uppers, as can be seen, are in great shape.  Problem is the shoe is heavy and drains and drys really slow.

All this, and my growing interest in minimalist shoes, had me very excited when the X Country came out.  As soon as some gear sales brought in funds, I got some (sorry Paige, should’ve taken your offer last month).

As is obvious, they’re lower, have less delta, and less cushion than the Crossleather/lite.  The upper is one piece of burly-looking mesh, which I hope hits the holy grail of draining fast and outlasting the tread.

I find the fit identical in the heel and through the midfoot, which for me is perfect.  The X Country doesn’t have the modest arch support of the Crossleather (which I at first corrected (in the rightmost pair) by cutting up the insole, and later fixed better (middle pair) by putting in an Inov8 insole).  The photo doesn’t show it too well, but the toebox seems to be less pointy, with a bit more room on the outside.  I never had a problem with the Crossleather, but more room here cannot be anything but a benefit.  The inside of the toebox still treads the line between being wide enough for swelling feet, but narrow enough for technical edging work on rugged terrain.  As has been noted, this is important, as minimalist shoes don’t have sole structure to provide support when kicking steps in snow or negotiating steep rock, turf, and scree.  Your foot muscles have to do that, and the toebox, especially the inside edge, can’t be too floppy, or it just doesn’t work.

The sole is a close variation of the same outstanding tread used on the ‘leather.  The rubber is sticky, but reasonably durable.  The rightmost pair have a ton of miles on them.  The middle pair do too, but as is obvious all the talus, moraine, tundra, and brush (to say nothing of glacial silt) aged the shoes in a frighteningly efficient manner.  7 weeks old!

I’m excited to get these out, see how they perform, hold up, and further see just how minimal a shoe for fast and rugged wilderness travel can get.  I have no doubt that shoes with less structure have allowed my feet to work better and thus hike further, faster with less fatigue and pain.  But at what point, if any, is a bit less support and protection too little?  I aim to find out.

10 responses to “LaSportiva X Country v. Crossleather”

  1. Should note: my size 45 X Country’s are 9 oz a shoe.

  2. I’ll have to try on a pair of the X Country soon. I’ve been pretty pleased Crosslites overall.

    That being said….I’ve been running in Merrell Trail Gloves lately as well as Altra Instincts. Those two shoes have really made me appreciate shoes with zero drop. I’m hoping the Altra Lone Peak will be all I’m expecting it to be.

    1. The Altra shoes look really good. I want some Baregrip 200s, too.


  3. Looking forward to hearing how the new La Sportivas perform. I picked up a pair this morning in town and like the look of them.

    I got divorced from Inov8 earlier this year due to irrecoverable differences with the heel cup. After reading your article on footwear for the other 3 seasons I learned that fit triumphs all, no matter how much you like the grip of weight of the shoe. I’m currently trying out some New Balance and a pair of Montral Rogue Racers but I think I want something in between. Striking that balance between protection, durability, weight and performance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wear new trainers for a couple of hundred miles before deciding if they’re suitable and THEN paying for them?!

    1. Did the 23 miles last Saturday in them. Bit more foot soreness, due I think to the lesser cushion. That will I think be adapted to, otherwise they’re great.

  4. Dave, you should look into the Crosslite 2.0. By far my favorite shoe from Sportiva.

    1. Rich, they look like an X Country with more beef in the sole. Depending on how the X Countrys play out, I’ll likely get a pair.

      Thus far, the X Countrys have been great. The upper fabric is fantastic, seems durable, and is tight weave enough to take aquaseal reinforcements without getting nubbly on the inside (and tearing up feet). The only question is weather I can strengthen my feet enough to use them for big, rough stuff.

  5. […] beating on shoes off trail and in the water so often.  It’s useful to recall the images in this post: both pairs of Crossleathers are still functional (albeit with increasing bare tread).  If you […]

  6. […] Crossleather, for the precision fit, fantastic traction, and upper which outlasted the tread.  The X Country was more minimal, maybe excessively so, but had a wider toebox and the same great sole. […]

  7. […] of reference for rugged backpacking and hiking for a decade now.  The Crosslite, Crossleather, X Country, Anakonda, and Bushido have shared basic tread patterns, excellent rubber, close fit and low stack […]

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